soundtrack series: december

It’s December. December.

I say this every month, but where did that time go?

So far it’s been chaos: new job, new city, new house. But in among the crazy, I’ve also discovered some new songs which have kept me sane and have been added to my playlist thanks to Meg and her family.

Christmas hasn’t really been hot on my agenda this year (and even though it’s happened, it feels like a million moons ago) so most of these songs are just good to dance along to in the kitchen – all year round.

Here’s my five:

1. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – Darlene Love

The perfect Christmas duet, Meg and I can be found singing along to this randomly in impromptu moments when we’re in the same room. Weirdly we’ve even managed to start singing it at the same time unplanned, and it has been constantly stuck in my head all month.

2. Mr Brightside – The Killers

This features in arguably one of the most relatable movie scenes I’ve ever seen. Cameron Diaz headbanging to this after a few too many tipples is something I can watch and get on board with. We’ve all had one of those moments, and what a tune to headbang to.

3. Jump – Girls Aloud

I am not the only one who dances along to Hugh Grant, surely? December wouldn’t be December without the annual showing of Love Actually in the living room, complete with mid-film-quoting and the Girls Aloud danceathon, led by the Prime Minister himself. Not a song I’m usually partial to, but who can resist at Christmas?

4. The Tide Is High – Atomic Kitten

As well as moving to Sheffield and starting a new job, I also seem to have been recruited into a new, up-and-coming girl band ‘0114 Girls.’ Coming home after work I now find myself partaking in band practice, complete with dance routines and attempted three part harmonies. It. Is. Gold.

5. Angel In The Night – Basshunter

Top of the list for our pre-drink playlist, this was played several times over the month. New Year’s Eve partying started with a solid twenty minutes of pure Basshunter (and headbanging). Starting the New Year as we mean to go on!

Any songs you’d recommend from this month? Let me know!

love sophie

soundtrack series: november

It’s been a busy bee kind of month (isn’t every month!?) and I’ve found myself rarely listening to music just for the fun of it. I’ve moved (yep, that’s right. You can read all about it here) and changed jobs and now my usual routine has vanished.

I am no longer singing (and dancing) along to eighties classics from a speaker in an empty bookshop, but rather I’m sat on a tram with headphones in, trying to drown out the tram speakers and the beeping doors constantly opening and closing to let on more commuters.

I’m excited to have a fun few weekends coming up where I’m out adventuring with good friends, good food, and hopefully some good music which will make an appearance in my December soundtrack series.

As for November, here goes:

1.Norah Jones – A Long Way Home

An absolute classic. The Long Way Home has been on my marmalade skies playlist since it was created, and I never bore of listening to it. I love her voice, and her songs are great to listen to at any time of day. I also enjoy listening to the Norah Jones Radio on Spotify. If you have it I’d 10/10 recommend!

2. Bruce Springsteen – Dancing In The Dark

The Boss is back, but this time in true original glory. This one has made its way onto my soundtrack series before, but as a cover. This month the original has been blasted from my speakers more times than I can count. I blooming love Bruce.

3. Tears For Fears – Everybody Wants To Rule The World

It’s all eighties at the moment, especially living with Meg! This is just one example of the tunes blasted out the kitchen radio when Heart 80s is on. We do like to have a boogie when we’re washing up, so what’s better to dance to than the 80s?

4. Sara Bareilles – She Used To Be Mine

I love Sara, but only came across this song when I listened to the Norah Jones radio. I absolutely loved it and added it to my playlist straight away. It’s now a regular running through my ears on my commute, and I love it. It’s good for getting me geared up for work, but doesn’t make me want to dance in public (apparently it’s not appropriate on an 8am tram.)

5. James Blunt – 1973

Last but no means least comes from this beauty. And what a tune. I absolutely love James Blunt and was devastated when I didn’t get tickets to see him when he showed up in Leeds for the night. I started singing the first line to Simon, the cat, when I moved to Sheffield and the song has since stuck.

Let me know what you’ve been listening to!

social sundays: the importance of getting out and about when writing

I left the house on Sunday for what felt like the first time in months. (Am I the only one who thinks January is dragging?!) I got the bus (having sucked it up and hoped that because it was a Sunday, I wouldn’t be bashed about) and met up with a friend from uni who I haven’t seen since we both graduated in July – too long!

It was super nice to just get out of the house for a few hours and spend some time in someone else’s company. (It’s amazing how solitary writing can be, and how long you can go without speaking to anyone in person or on the phone.)

We went to Velo Lounge, an old favourite from our student-ville days when it was just a short walk away. We sipped our way through large and small pots of tea, and chatted about life, our jobs, our houses (so adult) before laughing over old videos from our student days (which was incredibly amusing – it’s crazy to see how much we’ve changed in three years!)

It did wonders to be in a different place, out of the house, and in the fresh air. All too often (especially when those pesky deadlines come looming) I’ll barricade myself at the writing desk until they’re all done. It doesn’t help, in fact if anything it makes it 1000x worse. But the thought of being in front of the laptop and fully immersed in it makes me think I’ll actually write.

That’s until I actually leave my room and forget about what I’m writing for a bit. Then it all just flows out of my brain like it’s been scripted. (I know this, so I know I should leave my desk but sometimes it’s just too stressful to step away.) I always take a pen and notebook with me, and I have one in the car for when I’m driving around for inspiration which is actually very very full (night time driving is the cure of the supposed writers block for me). I also use my phone a lot to jot things down, even if it’s just a conversation I hear, or a description of what someone is wearing (a bit weird but I’m a writer so I have an excuse.)

Anyway, after we’d drunk buckets of tea and chatted for several hours, we said our goodbyes and I was automatically inspired to write. AMAZING!

I have to grab moments like these and run with them because they don’t often stay for long. I managed to write a lot of words which was great, but more importantly I got to use what I’d written in my journal that day of all the things I’d seen and done.

I even used things we’d talked about over lunch when looking at my character arcs.

It’s amazing how much can come out of one adventure away from the writing desk.

I’ve been keeping up with my morning pages which has been going really well this month, so it’s nice to get the opportunity to expand and develop little ideas that have been niggling their way to the front of my brain.

Safe to say it’s had a domino effect and I’ve been out of the house everyday since Sunday too (it was only one day but it still counts.) Yesterday I went along to rugby training (which I really didn’t feel up to but I’m so glad I did) and the same thing happened. I came home and wrote words. Actual, proper words that make sense when joined together.

For anyone else struggling with the inevitable block, put your shoes on, grab a brolly and go and take on the outdoors. It doesn’t have to be loads, it could just be a walk around the garden or a trip to the postbox down the street. Take some time away from your writing and it might just catch right up with you.

Let me know if you have any luck!

love sophie

soundtrack series: december

December is such a throwback month for music, dusting off cobwebs from some Christmas favourites I wish could be played all year.

Compiling a list of my favourite songs this month was so hard as I wanted to list most of the charts. There’s nothing better than singing along to a Christmas classic whilst baking up some winter goodness.

I’m not a big music buff, and dip in and out of genres and artists, so I’ve enjoyed sharing my soundtrack series this year, in the hope it might introduce you to artists you haven’t heard of before. I find that if you like one specific genre, it can be easier to stick with it instead of venturing out into the unknown. (My dad is a stickler for this – apparently music from his era is the only ‘good’ music out there!)

So I bring you my 12 songs of Christmas (because 5 just wasn’t enough)…

1.Fairytale Of New York – The Pogues

Always at the top of any Christmas soundtrack I write, Fairytale of New York is my ultimate Christmas singalong. Whether I’m at home, driving in the car, or out and about, it’s on every playlist I listen to in December. Who doesn’t love The Pogues?

2. River – Eminem & Ed Sheeran

I like this song so much that it’s often on repeat and the volume is turned up as soon as I hear it. It’s quite catchy and good to listen to if you’re wrapping presents and not yet in a very Christmassy mood.

3. Let Me Go – Hailee Steinfield

A great background song which at first, I really didn’t like. After a few listens, however, I’m a fan. Not my favourite song from 2017 but it’s a good one.

4. Anywhere – Rita Ora

A good for everything song which I think is one of my faves from 2017. Not usually a huge fan of Rita Ora but I like the chorus (and know all the words which helps).

5. New Rules – Dua Lipa

I need Dua Lipa to write me a rule book to life because it’s just so true. The lyrics of this song are great and it reminds me of dancing around the kitchen in Edinburgh on a girly weekend away.

6. Band Aid – Do They Know It’s Christmas?

Another Christmas classic comes from Band Aid. I love the original version but the modern one is equally as good. I always associate Christmas with a small collection of songs, this one included. It wouldn’t be Christmas without it.

7. Christmas Lights – Coldplay

I absolutely love Coldplay, and would say they appear in most of my playlists. And I’m not usually a fan of modern day Christmas songs, but I absolutely love the mellowed out sound. The piano introduction is really magical.

8. I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday – Wizzard

I adore this song. It’s incredibly cheesy and corny, but it’s so catchy and I really do wish it could be Christmas everyday sometimes!

9. Reggaetón Lento – CNCO & Little Mix 

I might not know any of the words, but this is one of my favourite songs of this year. I make up the lyrics when I sing along because I love it (and wish I could remember the words.)

10. Havana – Camila Cabello

Such a good song to do anything to. Not too loud, but loud enough to enjoy wherever. great for driving (and singing along to) and great lyrics. An easy listener.

11. Perfect – Ed Sheeran & Beyonce

Although I wasn’t originally a huge fan, the Beyonce version of Perfect has definitely grown on me. I love Ed and his music, and like Beyonce and hers but didn’t imagine them ever crossing over. But I like.

12. Roots – Grace Davies & Paloma Faith

I’m not a huge fan of The X Factor anymore, but I watched the final this year and loved the addition of original songs. This one was one of my favourites. It’s such a humble song and I adore the lyrics. Paloma is also a gem.

So there you go! It was very tough to whittle it down to just twelve, and there are lots more which I’ve loved listening to that will no doubt make an appearance in the new year.

Have a good one x

love sophie

the big traditions: the present swap 

There’s just something about traditions. They usually involve meeting up with people you don’t see too often, or doing something you wouldn’t normally do, which is why I absolutely love them.

One of our main traditions around this time of year is with university friends of my parents. Our families have grown up together, but living in separate cities means we only get reunited for special occasions (or the occasional fundraiser!)

The annual pre-Christmas present swap takes place in York, and each family brings a different course. I love it because it’s possibly the only time we are all together and catching up. I’m the youngest ‘child’ at twenty one, and with the older ones in full time jobs (I’m too busy with my MA) we are rarely altogether.

After a couple of rounds of prosecco and some general chit chat, we make our way to the table (adorned with Christmas delights and crackers.) The most prized gift from the crackers is the fortune telling fish, which makes it’s way around the table between courses every year (one of the many traditions of the evening.) It usually assures me I’m independent and then by the time it gets to the end we’ve exhausted it. The poor thing no longer moves.

As well as amazing food (often vegan or vegetarian to cater for everyone) there is hilarious entertainment from the questionably talented Pete and Steve (my dad) who sing a rendition of their classic song ‘Christmas in the Clink’ (which is in its fourth year.) Pete strums guitar and Steve sings the lyrics he’s written to fit the events of the year. We’ve heard everything. We’re all primed to join in with the chorus and are sometimes even allowed to join in with percussion (although the latter not as much.) We joke every year that they should have made Christmas No’1 but it’s yet to actually happen.

This is followed by an orchestrated cacophony of music as we all receive a pitched whistle and become a whistle choir (each numbered so we know when it’s our turn.) Cue a lot of laughter, whistles flying across the room from excessive blowing, and several missed notes. It wouldn’t be Christmas without a ridiculous game of some sort, would it!

We’ll crack open the jokes from the crackers and wear our hats, and then one by one (we’re very diplomatic) we’ll take it in turns to say our joke. This year we even added some of our own.

After dessert, and several more drink top ups, we stay at the table and natter. It’s amazing how many random topics twelve people can talk about. Then out comes the tea and coffee along with a fine spread of chocolates to add to the food baby we’ve grown.

Before you know it it’s half eleven and the night has flown. We usually say our goodbyes over the course of half an hour (is this just us?) We’ll get up from the table and move to the kitchen. Talk. Put on our shoes. Talk. Find the coats. Talk. Collect up all our belongings for the food. Talk. And then remember to swap the presents, the main purpose of being there.

We’re in the car by midnight (on a good night) and then it’s back to Leeds we go, after a little more chatter whilst we load everything into the boot.

It’s the one night that always gets me feeling Christmassy, even if I wasn’t before, and I hope the tradition continues far into the future as it’s definitely one of my favourites.

Do you have any traditions you have at Christmas? Or generally throughout the year?

Let me know!

loce sophur

soundtrack series: november

Along with my classic playlists (those ones you can rely on for awkward car journeys or as background music for a cuppa with someone you don’t really know) I’ve ventured out this month.

I’ve listened to quite a varied selection. With prep going on for the my trek, and the trek itself, I’ve been listening to a lot of upbeat and motivational songs. One of my fellow trekkers compiled a playlist for us all to listen to and I’ve been doing exactly that!

I’ve also just begun planning a big exciting Irish adventure for 2019 with my friend, Meg, which has meant listening to lots of Irish music to get me in the mood. (We had a good dance around the kitchen as a break from logistics.)

So here’s my top five picks for November. I’m not feeling as Christmassy as I’d like at the moment so I’m afraid you’ll have to wait till next month for a special Christmas edition (It’s a good one.)

  1. The Dubliners

I mean, come on. Is there any better band to listen to whilst planning an Irish adventure? I’m absolutely in love with all of their songs but there are a couple which can (do) end up on repeat. I also think they’re a bit of a toe tapper (or a full blown jig if you’re me and Meg.)

If you haven’t heard of them, I’d recommend listening to The Irish Rover (what a classic!) as well as Seven Drunken Nights (which is hilarious!!) I’ll Tell Me Ma is also a good one, but with only one arm I couldn’t dance to it properly so that’ll be one for when I finish physio!

2.  Keira Knightley

Before I went to Oman, I watched Begin Again (for the millionth time) after discovering it in summer. I absolutely love the film, and the soundtrack, with a lot of love for Lost Stars, and Like A Fool.

(The whole soundtrack and film are worth a listen/watch!) I’m a fan of Lost Stars when I’m writing or driving and need to concentrate a bit.

3. Heather Small 

Proud has been a common choice for backing tracks to the videos people have been making of our trek. It’s a lovely song, and very motivational. It is a hit with me, and a belter.

Great for those solo car journeys when you know (hope) no one is listening!

4. Dido

Whilst travelling to the airport, home from the airport, and everywhere in between, I listened to a lot of Dido. She’s a good one to listen to if you’re in need of a chill. I sang Sand In My Shoes as we were joking about having the desert dust in our socks and boots for weeks. And that was on the middle of a mountain.

I also love White Flag, one of my absolute favourite Dido bangers. And Life For Rent. They’re great to listen to when you need to concentrate too, and I often have them on in the background when I’m writing.

5. The Foo Fighters

When we got to the top of Jebel Qihwi in Oman, the final summit, we arrived to Learn To Fly, one of my favourite Foo Fighter songs, being blasted from one of the cars. We also listened to Everlong, amongst others, as we welcomed everyone to the top.

It was such a special moment and one that I’ll forever associate with The Foo Fighters, and I’ll always remember it when I hear their songs on the radio. How incredible.

 

That’s a wrap on Novembers soundtrack, but I’ll be back in December with my top five Christmas songs.

Happy Listening, let me know your thoughts!

loce sophur

 

book club: goodbye, perfect (proof)

I was very fortunate to land myself one of the beautiful proof copies of Sara Barnard’s Goodbye, Perfect and have thoroughly enjoyed worming my way through it. I was completely transfixed by the characters and am incredibly excited for it to come out in full publication glory in February. It was captivating, honest, and blooming fab! I love Barnard and don’t deny she is definitely my girl crush.

But seeing the proof got me thinking about how much goes into the publishing process and how long it takes for a story to go from being a blank word document to a bound and beautifully marketed book.

Once I finished the book and put it down (and after a ‘I’m-sad-that-it’s-over-but-feel-better-brew’) I sat for quite a long time just staring at it and then at my own word document which was open on my laptop. It made me realise that the book I’d just read was once a Word Document, being edited, read, reread, deleted. Just like mine.

We’re in the middle of NaNoWrMo at the minute (National Novel Writing Month) and, although I’m not taking part, I have been using it as motivation to try and up my word count.

I felt that the beautifully bound book I had in my mind was so far away, but looking at my word document made me realise it’s a lot closer than it could be (18,583 words closer to be exact.)

In November alone I’ve written 6,000 of these words. Now, to some people, that’s nothing, but to me, it’s huge (especially seen as I wasn’t actually in the country for one week.)

I realised, sitting between my unfinished manuscript and Barnard’s proof, that the key to writing is reading. It is such a catalyst to great words and great works. I struggled to keep on top of reading when I began my manuscript, especially reading for pleasure. I was too deep in thick research and books I would never usually choose to read that I lost my way with reading.

This year, since I’ve started the MA, I’ve found my way back. Although it’s not always for pleasure, I find that I’m reading a lot of good stuff which is helping to nourish my own work.

Reading Goodbye, Perfect made me realise that the challenge of writing really is worth it. That the pudding really is sweet and delicious and worth the trials and tribulations the process brings.

So, read. It doesn’t even have to be a book. Read the ingredients on the cereal box, read the road signs, read the adverts on the bus.

The words do wonders to your own.

love sophie

 

unintentional inspiration

I did the school run with my mum this morning and it was such a blast from the past going back to my old primary school, which I left ten years ago! I was amazed at the different changes that have happened since I left, and how the space has adapted to the growing intake and the ‘modern day’.

I went around the back and into the playground where the key stage two children queue up and found myself in an enchanted wonderland. From the pride flag, to a beautiful literary themed signpost, the playground had it all. I wish it had been like that when I was there, and it made me realise just how much has changed in the last ten years.

It also really inspired me to write.

I don’t know whether it was the reminiscent nature of it all, or the enchanting setting, or even whether it was just a good writing day for me. But whatever it was did wonders! I came home and bashed out a good chapter and felt really enthusiastic about where it was going and what I was writing.

I often really struggle for inspiration and forget to look closely at something. I can try really hard to think of something to write but when I read it back, I never like it. For me, the best writing always comes when I least expect it to.

Going back to the primary school today made me realise how fortunate I am, and how grateful I am to have had my education.

I thought about my protagonist and how they would feel at school. I thought about their own school ‘world’ and tried to build on one I had created before. I thought about my own experience of primary school and some very fond memories and friends.

It really helped.

It also made me think like a child.

A big struggle I think a lot of children’s writers face is getting into the mindset of a child. Unless you have/know a child, it is really difficult to imagine one without creating a subjective opinion.

It is very easy as an author to ‘write what you know.’ But the most difficult thing is writing for something or someone you find difficult.

We all have our own childhood which we remember (or not), but I think that makes it even more difficult when trying to imagine a child who is different to you.

If you were incredibly hard working, it is possibly quite hard for you to imagine being someone who struggled with work ethic. If you got on with your teacher and had a good relationship with them, it is hard to imagine being someone who really didn’t agree with the teacher. At least without stereotyping.

One thing I find difficult with writing a variety of characters is how well I’m portraying them to the reader. I don’t want the reader to see a stereotypical view on something. I want them to see the character I created. The character for themselves.

I think that having those unintentional inspirational moments can really help with this in your writing. You might be able to make your character more than just two dimensional. Having that inspiration, such as hearing a conversation between children, seeing them interact with adults etc, can really improve your writing.

You might not even realise it’s happened.

love sophie

Festifeel and other adventures of the boob kind

As I’m currently raising money for the boob-loving charity, CoppaFeel! I ventured to London, with some boob-baes to show our support and enjoy a day full of boobie banter, live music and glitter!

We had a great day listening to music from Pixie Lott and Fleur East (amongst others) as well as hearing some wonderful poets and hilarious comedians. It was a great day and it was filled with so much love and positivity.

Headed up by the boob queen Kris Hallenga and Fearne Cotton, the day paid tribute to the success of the charity and its many supporters.

I absolutely loved getting my glitter on and having a good old boogie to some of the best tunes I remember from my childhood. It isn’t every day you get to see Busted headline in such an intimate space. And it was boobin’ incredible!

I hadn’t met up with lots of the people from the Oman trek yet so it was a great opportunity to chat to them, have a dance and a couple of G&Ts!

House of Vans was an incredible venue and CoppaFeel! had received so much support that the festival seemed to have everything. From the live music to comedians, to boob booth and their very own Boobtown and Casa CoppaFeel! Artists were on hand to help with graffiti lessons for the vaults outside the venue, and skateboarders and other kinds of people on wheels were showing their moves. It was AMAZING!

And it all helped raise money for their wonderful charity!

Along with seeing lots of other fabulous people, including Ellie (the CoppaFeel Fundraising Queen), we also got to see Giovanna who will be leading my team on the trek across the desert.

It is so nice to have such a wonderful excuse to all come together on a Saturday to celebrate life and have fun sharing the boob love! (Covered in glitter!)

It made me even more excited for the trek, and having time away from my novel gave me several new ideas without thinking about it.

I will often find myself feeling guilty spending the day at an event/out and putting off writing, but I think it’s important to realise how valuable it can be. It’s first hand research.

I came away thinking that my protagonist would absolutely love the kind of music Busted and Pixie Lott sing, and it got me imagining how they would act at a festival. What a bonus!

Have you done anything recently, or been anywhere, that has inspired your writing? You might not have even noticed!

Let me know!

love sophie

soundtrack series: october

Where did October go? It’s been a wonderful month of new writing plans and exciting ventures, coupled with the beginning of my MA in Writing For Young People which I am absolutely loving! And new music!

When I was writing the opening towards the beginning of the year, I found Birdy to be a constant presence on my writing playlist. But I’ve discovered some new loves which help me get pen to page.

I’ve listed my top five artists of October for you below. Enjoy!

  1. Frances.

Have I been living under a rock or what?! OMG. The first time I heard Grow I didn’t want it to end. I definitely don’t mind admitting I had it on repeat for a solid week before I listened to any of her other songs. Don’t Worry About Me is also a gorgeous song to have on when writing. There’s something about her mystical voice and the piano keys which takes you off somewhere magical and lets you discover a whole new world. If you haven’t discovered her yet, DO IT! I promise you won’t regret listening to her delicious lyrics.

2. Jamie Lawson

I’ve never really listened to any of Jamie’s music before, but I recently listened to Don’t Let Me Let You Go and I fell in love with it. It’s a silky dream of a song and sits into the backdrop so you can still work. His voice is so relaxing and his lyrics are honest. I wasn’t a huge fan of Wasn’t Expecting That after a few plays, but I can’t seem to get this one off repeat! Definitely worth a listen, especially if you like Passenger.

3. Calum Scott

Oh my. I’ve always been a fan of this guy since his audition on The X Factor where he sang Dancing On My Own (one of my favourite songs). But he’s gracing my life with his face and voice again in his new single out in November You Are The Reason. And it is simply stunning. Definitely one of my favourite voices to listen to when I’m wrapped up in blankets with a cuppa trying to write.

4. Tori Kelly

Callen and Beth introduced me to her song Dear No One when we were in the car driving to our writing date a few days ago. It is one of the catchiest songs I’ve heard in a while and I like the relatable lyrics and the singalong quality it brought to the car journey. Songs like this are quick to put a smile on my face and make me feel in the mood to write. To say the song is three years old is telling of how timeless the lyrics are and how much fun three people can have in a car when it’s blasting out.

5. Imagine Dragons

Not Today, from the Me Before You Soundtrack, is one of the most beautiful songs (I might be bias because I think the same about the film). I love the textured voice behind the lyrics. It’s not their usual rocky number which I think is why I like it so much. The string layer along with the guitar lifts the song and makes it writing-backdrop-worthy. I find myself singing along whilst trying to picture characters in different situations and it somehow helps.

Are there any songs which you’ve found helpful whilst writing this month?

Let me know!

love sophie